I am spending my Thanksgiving holiday alone, in solitude, in quietness. I have been invited to many gatherings and was intending to go to one. However I have been experiencing a somewhat chronic headache for a week, sometimes at a tolerable simmer, and sometimes explosively, painfully, debilitatingly. So I decided I would have my holiday be a day off, a day of rest, to recuperate a bit, and therefore changed my RSVP to no, thank you very much.
Carl Jung, the historically important psychoanalyst, defined introversion versus extroversion. Simply put, Introversion is recharging one’s batteries via being alone while Extroversion is recharging one’s batteries by being with others. I am an introvert. I need alone-time and down-time to rest and rejuvenate. Currently my employment is quite extroverted, so I crave that down-time even more when I have work off.
Recently Dr. Elaine Aron has defined Highly Sensitive Person as someone who notices everything faster, and therefore gets to the point of overload sooner. 15-20% of all higher mammal populations have these subsets of creatures who are the “first alert system.” Their basic physiology is somewhat different from the remaining 80-85%. In humans, the trait of sensitivity to stimuli activates the adrenal system sooner, and maybe more deeply, and therefore the body-mind system moves to overload and exhaustion sooner.
Introversion and High Sensitivity are not necessarily the same thing, but you can see how they might be related. It is possible to be one or the other, neither or both. For me, I am both. That is not to say I don’t like people. I do. It is to say, however, that I need to moderate how I interact with people. A large, extended, gathering of people for holiday celebrating is quite likely an extrovert’s paradise. For introverts, and highly sensitives, it is something to be managed carefully, withdrawn from early, endured, or avoided altogether.
Our American culture tends to prefer extroversion. And so some people don’t understand this need of solitude. There is usually some sense that people feel bad for you if you will be alone on a holiday. Au contraire, mes amis. I am enjoying, as my mamma used to say, a day of R&R (rest and relaxation). The frantic preparing, shopping, cooking, cleaning, traveling, interacting, cleaning again, traveling again, and collapsing that is the typical holiday experience — let’s just say, I’m not missing it. I would love to see the people I would have been seeing, and I would prefer a nice, one-on-one, juicy, deep discussion about life, than the hit-or-miss-constantly-interrupted-chit-chat that one is capable of in a big, frenetic group.
As a child, I enjoyed the holidays. We almost always went to my mother’s sister’s house, and “y’all come” was the standard. A house-full to say the least. I’ve just been realizing today, that the way it worked for me then was perfect for my introverted highly sensitive little self. I was the youngest cousin, and my next-oldest girl cousin and I would retreat to her room, and play for hours by ourselves. Everyone was around. Food was around. General gaiety was around. But we were off in our own little world most of the time. Perfect!
Today, I’m sitting in front of the fire, about to eat my Thanksgiving “Fantastico” pizza which someone else (maybe not so lovingly) prepared for me yesterday (but with no drama, no temper tantrums, no melt-downs). I have visited the-cat-who-is-taking-a-nap a few times to say Purrrr. There is almost no sound I’m aware of, save the humming of the refrigerator. I am wearing very comfy clothes I would not wear out in public. No bra, no makeup, no shoes. Delish!
Headache is still simmering. But I’m not lighting a fire under it by adding to my stress levels today. And for that I’m grateful. I’m at a place in my life where I have the freedom to do this. If I were raising kids I would want them to have the family connections of big holiday gatherings, but I’m not. I’m thankful for all the years I did have with my family, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
So, what I’m grateful for today (in no particular order):
- The freedom to be solitary
- The history of togetherness
- A roof over my head
- A bed to sleep in, and my favorite pillows
- Hot and cold running water
- The education and training to help others in ways that really have nothing to do with my education and training — amazing! I help people but I’m not the one helping them — such a lovely paradox, and an honor and privilege to be a part of.
- The surprising revelations and growth which are helping me move along on my own path
- Good-enough health
- The ability to see
- The mountains which are to be seen
- Furry soft purry cats
- My lovely and entertaining landlady/roommate
- Very old friends and very new friends and friends all over the world (and Facebook, which helps this introvert keep in touch)
- That it is not 0°F today where I am (Sorry, I have a hard time being grateful for extreme cold)
- Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendars (I can’t wait!)
- That geraniums are still blooming in the window
- A certain amount of freedom politically, civilly, religiously, economically
- The ability to have traveled and lived in France. Vive la belle France!
- …. and so much more….
Be well. Be grateful, whether together or apart. May my extroverted friends have 100 people over for a raucous party. May my introverted friends have quiet conversations. May you be who you are, happily and contentedly. Blessings be on you and yours.